Naples Tomato restaurant closes after eight years

Video from NBC-2

Naples Tomato

14700 Tamiami Trail North, Naples

— Say goodbye to nickel lasagna night, Nadine’s favorite pasta and Krispy Kreme doughnut bread pudding.

Naples Tomato, a popular North Naples restaurant, closed its doors Saturday after the dinner service.

“We gave it our best go, but I think with places like the Mercato it’s going to be impossible for things to work,” said Jack Serfass, the restaurant’s owner. “We had a lot of conversations, but we weren’t able to make it possible.”

The restaurant has been open for about eight years and was featured in a 2006 New York Times travel piece on Naples.

Serfass declined to go into the details that surrounded the decision to close the restaurant, but said the location — 14700 U.S. 41 N, just south of the Lee County border — was no longer a viable one.

“It is sudden,” he said. “I can’t really get in to the details, but if we felt we could make it continue, we would.”

Serfass said restaurant management was informed of the closure Monday night by phone, while other employees — like bartenders and servers — were informed Tuesday morning through a post on an employee message board.

Naples Tomato hostess Brianna King said she started hearing rumors of the closure Monday night as she got ready for work. She called her manager who said the restaurant was closed and there were concerns about whether employees would be paid.

Employees, King said, should have been paid Tuesday.

“I wouldn’t say (we’re) panicking, it’s more a question of now what do we do,” King said. “Where do we go from here? It’s just a lot of we don’t know.”

Serfass said it was “definitely not (Naples Tomato’s) intention” to leave employees in the lurch. The company has a team working to liquidate its assets so it could pay employees, vendors and creditors.

“We’re doing what we can,” Serfass said.

The restaurant sent out a blast to about 15,000 customers on the company’s email list shortly before 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Other customers learned of the closure when they stopped by the restaurant for lunch. Instead of finding a bustling restaurant, customers were met with closed doors and a mostly empty space.

No sign was on the door, wine bottles were strewed across the bar and all of the furniture — from tables and chairs to plush couches and coffee tables — had been removed.

“We’re shocked,” said Naples resident John Barlas. “We got the impression they were renovating.”

Serfass said while the restaurant is “closed for good at that location,” he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of reopening at another location. Naples Tomato still has a franchise company — the first franchise was awarded in 2010 in Connecticut — and all of the recipes and trademarks are in a holding company. Those components, Serfass said, will make it easier to open a new restaurant if the opportunity arose.

In its May issue, Gulfshore Life magazine readers voted Naples Tomato as Collier County’s top spot for Italian fare and brunch, and also recognized its wine list as the best in town.

King said she didn’t know what the future holds for the restaurant, but is hoping things work out for the former employees.

“I don’t know, they might reopen, they might move,” she said. “I honestly don’t know. I hope I get paid.”

© 2012 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 123

osamaisdead writes:

Worst meal ever!

foreclosure_agent writes:

I'm not surprised. I ate there one time and my palate was fatigued before I finished my meal. There were too many flavors that didn't work together. I never went back.

No1Uno writes:

Its amazing how overrated a place can be just by putting the word "Naples" in a name. Basically located in Bonita, but never really reached out to Bonita or Fort Myers 10-20 minutes away either.

Those Dinners for 2 with a bottle of wine will put you under pretty quick in the summer, so I guess they had to do the right thing.

RichardBalles writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

rgranfeldt writes:

Dang. We always had great times there and I thought the food was fantastic. Shame.

RichardBalles writes:

in response to columbia:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Mickey D's serves PINK SLIME, and you sheep get right in line and open your wallets and pay to die faster. However Naples Tomatoes SUCKS! and they have always sucked. You can get a better piece of lasagna, frozen at publix. Again. bye-bye you piece of crap!

tjohn#222071 writes:

Goodbye to the best crabcakes on the planet and some of the best menu values in the county. Mercato has no equal. Sorry this is happening.

xmanxray writes:

Went there for a Sunday brunch. Everything was picked over and not refreshed. Had to get the manager and complain to get new meat at the carving stations. The staff at the front was just standing around not doing much at all. Look at you now!

upagain writes:

Wow, tough food critics.

rgranfeldt writes:

So easy to come in here and make nasty comments anonymously. If you didn't like the restaurant why bother commenting? Why waste your time even clicking on the link? Some people have a sad life and just have to share it here. Best of luck Naples Tomato family...

RichardBalles writes:

in response to rgranfeldt:

So easy to come in here and make nasty comments anonymously. If you didn't like the restaurant why bother commenting? Why waste your time even clicking on the link? Some people have a sad life and just have to share it here. Best of luck Naples Tomato family...

Cool story babe/dude now make me a sandwich.

samsam writes:

thats what happens when the snowbirds leave.

No1Uno writes:

in response to RichardBalles:

Cool story babe/dude now make me a sandwich.

Judging by your name, your the one closest to where the crap comes out.

They were overated, but still put out okay food.

Signed,

Dick Enya

naplesdude239 writes:

in response to RichardBalles:

Mickey D's serves PINK SLIME, and you sheep get right in line and open your wallets and pay to die faster. However Naples Tomatoes SUCKS! and they have always sucked. You can get a better piece of lasagna, frozen at publix. Again. bye-bye you piece of crap!

They must serve great meals at the homeless shelter, eh?

RichardBalles writes:

in response to naplesdude239:

They must serve great meals at the homeless shelter, eh?

You know what its no so bad to be honest, maybe now the employees and the cook would prepare and serve us the slop they used to serve at that piece of CRAP restaurant. BYE-BYE you piece of crap! EH mate?

naplesdude239 writes:

in response to RichardBalles:

You know what its no so bad to be honest, maybe now the employees and the cook would prepare and serve us the slop they used to serve at that piece of CRAP restaurant. BYE-BYE you piece of crap! EH mate?

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

naplesdude239 writes:

in response to upagain:

Wow, tough food critics.

My wife and I loved going there every week after the cinema. It will be missed!

slampert writes:

i suppose that those of us holding naples tomato gift cards are SOL. it would have been nice to have had a little notice of the impending closing!!

tazman9916 writes:

I saw the comment about the value meals and also the one about snowbirds leaving. Here is my two cents worth: Bonita is home to the biggest bunch of clueless old cheapskates in the area and no establishment of any class will survive there for long by trying to appease the codgers who travel in packs and heedlessly expect every business to provide them with something for nothing. Every restaurant in Bonita that ever tries a promotion is over run with with greedy cheap seniors who "cleverly" show up early and crowd out anyone who might actually spend a few bucks. When the deal is gone the misers leave.

Local business should stop trying to appeal to a group of people who feel a business owes them something for nothing and remember who really pays the bills. Get rid of the early birds and the senior discounts and cater to people who realize that you have to spend a little money if you want your favorite local business to survive. Here endeth the rant.

xmanxray writes:

in response to rgranfeldt:

So easy to come in here and make nasty comments anonymously. If you didn't like the restaurant why bother commenting? Why waste your time even clicking on the link? Some people have a sad life and just have to share it here. Best of luck Naples Tomato family...

Sorry looser! I walked up to the manager/owner and complained right to his face. So according to you, I should only comment if I liked the place? Actually my life was a little sad when I was at the Naples Tomato buffet. Skillets would have been much better that day. Reality sucks when you slack off and start going down hill. If more patrons would have spoke up they might have saved the place. People just stoped going there.

RichardBalles writes:

in response to naplesdude239:

My wife and I loved going there every week after the cinema. It will be missed!

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

naplesdude239 writes:

in response to xmanxray:

Sorry looser! I walked up to the manager/owner and complained right to his face. So according to you, I should only comment if I liked the place? Actually my life was a little sad when I was at the Naples Tomato buffet. Skillets would have been much better that day. Reality sucks when you slack off and start going down hill. If more patrons would have spoke up they might have saved the place. People just stoped going there.

With a mouth like that I can't see why you didn't get the results you desired

naplesdude239 writes:

in response to RichardBalles:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

RichardBalles writes:

My wise friend once said, " if it was worth a dirt the naughty word for copulationing dump would still be open"

H.H.

Here4Now writes:

Sad to hear! I didn't eat there all that often, but I was always happy with the food. The lasagna was my favorite, but pretty much enjoyed everything. It was a bit too pricey for me, but hey. Really bad location unfortunately - didn't start out that way, but was a victim of the economic implosion of the last several years.

There are PLENTY of worse restaurants in town, particularly at Mercato, that I would rather see close up, but the old sheep of Naples don't like to travel far from their own bathrooms, so anything north of Mercato is "kiss of death". Too bad, especially for the employees.

Maybe Ms. Layden and NABOR can tell us all again how great the economy is picking up!

naplesdude239 writes:

in response to RichardBalles:

My wise friend once said, " if it was worth a dirt the naughty word for copulationing dump would still be open"

H.H.

Seeing as I own several successful restaurants in Michigan, I'll trust my opinion over that of a barely educated fool such as yourself, Richie.

RichardBalles writes:

in response to naplesdude239:

Seeing as I own several successful restaurants in Michigan, I'll trust my opinion over that of a barely educated fool such as yourself, Richie.

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

naplesdude239 writes:

in response to RichardBalles:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

RichardBalles writes:

in response to naplesdude239:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

RichardBalles writes:

in response to columbia:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

naplesdude239 writes:

in response to RichardBalles:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Now Richie, it's ok. Let's go have a catch. No need to feel left out while the adults are chatting. And by the way, I have lived in Naples part-time for the past 25 years.

xmanxray writes:

This is the flyer for the brunch.

http://www.naplestomato.com/wp-conten...

Not exactly the brunch I was at. Where do I start. The flyer shows prime rib. They had the butt end of an old roast beef left that was well done and dried out. The pasta station was pathetic. Just being truthfull. Read the reviews.

kingsmom writes:

wow! such hostility! We are very, very sad to lose Naples Tomato! We thoroughly enjoyed dining there on their Alder planked tilapia, lasagna and other fine dishes. We never had anything but great food and terrific service at Naples Tomato!

Trexler writes:

Yeah, and a lot of complaints about misuse of the camera system from insiders...

jpjp writes:

Will not miss this place! One of the worst meals I've ever eaten and the service wasn't any better!

midgee1998#243942 writes:

in response to osamaisdead:

Worst meal ever!

I never got a chance to eat there but I am Italian and haven't found one Italian Restaurant here in Naples that can even compare to the ones found in Connecticut and my own home. A city named Naples and we have Venice and ?? and no good Italian food to be found.

SWFLUSMC writes:

After one visit we did not go back and we lived 3 minutes from there. As far as some of the comments, many people can have different opinions and experiences but the fact is it was CLOSED. If it had been good to the majority of patrons it would still be open and profitable. Business owners always find excuses why their businesses fail. Bottom line is it failed because they could not provide a product better than other competitors in the area.

FreshFace writes:

way to treat employees. With a message board post and perhaps they'll be paying employees and vendors. Great way to run a business!

Quietcat writes:

in response to midgee1998#243942:

I never got a chance to eat there but I am Italian and haven't found one Italian Restaurant here in Naples that can even compare to the ones found in Connecticut and my own home. A city named Naples and we have Venice and ?? and no good Italian food to be found.

This is a perennial complaint- I have no idea why great Italian food is so impossible to come by in this area. So many Italian restaurants come and go and of the ones I've eaten at none are any good. I too am from the NY/Ct. area and there are so many excellent restaurants of all kinds it's hard to pick a favorite. Luckily my husband is half Italian and learned to cook Italian food from his grandmother, so when we're in the mood we eat at home!

Brynn writes:

in response to tazman9916:

I saw the comment about the value meals and also the one about snowbirds leaving. Here is my two cents worth: Bonita is home to the biggest bunch of clueless old cheapskates in the area and no establishment of any class will survive there for long by trying to appease the codgers who travel in packs and heedlessly expect every business to provide them with something for nothing. Every restaurant in Bonita that ever tries a promotion is over run with with greedy cheap seniors who "cleverly" show up early and crowd out anyone who might actually spend a few bucks. When the deal is gone the misers leave.

Local business should stop trying to appeal to a group of people who feel a business owes them something for nothing and remember who really pays the bills. Get rid of the early birds and the senior discounts and cater to people who realize that you have to spend a little money if you want your favorite local business to survive. Here endeth the rant.

I have been a Naples resident for over 30 years, I grew up here. You are right. The summer deals will kill the locals, thus having to cut other corners. The place was nice, but had very mediocre food. Im sorry to see another place go out of business.

Girlygirl writes:

Think of this everyone. Serfass states “We're doing what we can,” Well that is not going to help the employees whose rent is due today.

Most of the staff's income came from the consumers that ate at Naples Tomato...So basically Naples News is going to let him say...poor me. When actually he is a thief who stoled the employees monies (their tips)

Vendors and creditors know the risk when extending credit to a company.

SO WHO IS STANDING ON SIDE OF THE EMPLOYEE's...and who is going to help them.

icoryi writes:

I still miss the Sutton House.

Girlygirl writes:

in response to ELCID85:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Why would I need to pay their bills...I did not create them.

Explain to me what I do not get?

double_d writes:

It was Obama...no...it was Bush. Maybe the Snowbirds, etc, etc. Same bunch of folks with nothing kind to say to anyone. #2 LOVE THY NEIGHBOR!!!

Quietcat writes:

in response to ELCID85:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Since I've lived here as a fulltime resident for 20 years I guess I am "at home". The point of my comment was to question why it's hard to get and keep high quality restaurants in this area. As I read many stories about restaurant closings all the time, I think that's a valid question. Sorry you didn't understand my point.

GHornRRT writes:

Sad to hear of another restaurant closing in SWFLA. I have been a patron of Naples Tomato a couple of times...we found it over priced and the food was marginal. On our last visit the restaurant was almost empty and they gave us the worst table in the restaurant. The hostess had an attitude when we asked for a more romantic table one that was not in the center of the room! We live very close to the restaurant and eat out often. If the culture was more accomodating with great food at reasonable prices maybe they would still be in business. There are other local restaurants that are less intimate, less expensive with great food and there is a wait, even off season. Sad to see another empty store front and employees out of work after season. Don't blame going out of business on the Mercato. We never go to the Mercato we prefer to patronize local establishments with easy parking and less tourists.

TheLissack writes:

When they first opened it was great food most of the time, good service much of the time, but the owners were there in person and the fact that they cared showed. Then things happened -- popularity, taking on the folks from other restaurants, Jack and Nadine feeling that they did NOT have to be there all the time -- and the decline started. Then they expanded and the decline accelerated. then they started chasing "value" customers and it just got worse. The villain here is greed. If Jack had stayed personally involved and kept the place small -- they would still be open.

osamaisdead writes:

in response to slogoodland:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Ben, glad to meet you; Victor Hugo.

Justice12 writes:

Naples Tomato was a unique restaurant that suffered from owners that wanted to own a successful restaurant but not be visible. They managed from a distance by using video cameras and making hiring and firing choices based on little to no information. In a year and a half they had 32 different managers working for them and communicated different information to each one.
The biggest issue is failure to see these issues that have been going on for years and continuing to run the restaurant the same way is what cause the business to close.
Nickle Lasagnas did not help!

The good thing is they still have their Wine Ipad app company. Good Luck.

legal_right writes:

in response to slampert:

i suppose that those of us holding naples tomato gift cards are SOL. it would have been nice to have had a little notice of the impending closing!!

No kidding, Steven1111! I'm sure the employees feel the same way. The restaurant "serves it's last dinner" and closes it's doors for good on Saturday and the employees are notified today, Tuesday, via some bulletin board?

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